Project Runway Looks for Real People

Project Runway All Stars touch down in Pittsburgh

Pamela Vasey and Michael Shaun Corby

Pamela Vasey and Michael Shaun Corby

by Sarah Lolley

Tonight, Thursday January 9, on the Lifetime Channel’s Project Runway All Stars Season 3’s finale you might recognize a couple of Pittsburgh’s local creative talent. Donnie and Pamela Vasey, owners of Divinity Salon in Aspinwall, are members of the Alterna Hair Care’s Creative Project Runway All Stars Team in New York.

Recently, Alterna’s Haircare Global Creative Director Michael Shaun Corby visited the couple’s salon in Pittsburgh to host senior stylists from across the nation to teach and discuss their new hair style collection inspired by the runway looks created for Project Runway All Stars.

Jennifer Lawrence's shaggy pixie cut

Jennifer Lawrence’s shaggy pixie cut

Michelle Williams version of the pixie shag

Michelle Williams version of the pixie shag

Jennifer Hudson's pixie perfect

Jennifer Hudson’s pixie perfect

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus











“We call it ‘Runway to Real Way’,” explains Corby.  “Not every woman can wear what they see on the catwalk. What we are doing is taking looks from the runway, looks as seen on Project Runway from the actual team that appears on the show, and putting them into a collection that will be taught all around the world to all the Alterna Creative Team members.”

One of the trends this year will be the shag/pixie cut as seen on Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Williams, Beyonce, and good ole Miley Cyrus. As painful as it might be Tom Ford and Donna Karen do not make the impact as a tongue-waggling super star, according to trend predictor Michael Shaun. The good news is that Miley can also be partly credited to bringing back the high-waisted panty cut.

“This hair style is like if you put a shag together with a pixie,” says Corby. “We are not under cutting, everything is very free style, much like a razor cut through the hair, like punk was in the 80s. However, back then your hair was blasted at the ends, it was fried. We are taking the shape of head and taking shears to make hard cuts. It follows your head like a shag, and then we style it like a pixie.”

Donnie Vasey (from left), Erica Deppas, Nate Rosenkranz, and Jeff Wacker

Donnie Vasey (from left), Nate Rosenkranz, Erica Deppas, and Jeff Wacker

The other technique on the agenda for the collection will be getting finger waves with a curling iron. Corby also predicts that scalp-to-tip highlights will be the hot coloring trend. For instance, instead of the ombre look that gave you the look that you visited the beach, this full head color treatment will make you look like you live on the beach, consistently sun-kissed.

Alterna has developed a product to support the creative style collection like the Boho Wave, a textured mist. Developing new healthy hair care products was how the company began. Incidentally their first line was made from hemp in 1997. They soon became the fastest growing hair company.


Look from Insect Challenge

As to the instant popularity Corby says, “The hemp line is a cult favorite; however, if you smoke it all you will get is a headache. There is no THC in it.”

Because of the healthy and inventive Alterna products, super celebrity Katie Holmes was attracted to becoming the face of the company last year. Their most popular line includes the Caviar collection that combines the anti-aging technology of cosmetology into hair care.

“We call is ‘Good for you Beauty’. Early on Alterna took the (chemical additives) lists prohibited from skin care products and applied it to their hair products,” says Corby. “What you leave out of a product is as important as what you include.”

Corby and the Alterna Creative Project Runway Team that includes Erica Deppas from Charlotte, NC; Jeff Wacker from Laguna Beach, CA; Rita Perna Allor from Detroit, MI; Nate Rodenkranz from NY, NY; and Megan Thompson from Ohio working on Project Runway All Stars has meant working with the real people behind celebrities like host Alyssa Milano who brought cookies for the crew and Katie Holmes who brought soup to share.

Michael Shaun with Project Runway finalist Seth Aaron Henderson

Michael Shaun with Project Runway finalist Seth Aaron Henderson

Designer Isaac Mizrahi is Corby’s favorite celebrity on the show, whose creative candor has enlightened styles and designs with a “delicious” point of view. However, the real star from the pool of Season 3 All Star Designers might be Korto Momolu because of her accessible sense of style.

“I can certainly see her with a Target range,” says Corby. “Everything she made took in mind a woman who wants to sass it up and she understands woman’s body. It’s not a 6 foot tall, slender woman. I would say she is the most promising. I am excited how she turns out this week. She is one of the ones I think that has staying power. She is speaking directly to the people about what they need in a way they understand, which I found very interesting.”

Finalist Korto Momolu (right) with Alltera Design Team Member

Finalist Korto Momolu (right) with Alltera Design Team Member

When it came to hair design on the show Christopher Palu -was most likely to want to get his hands in the hair and at one point even tried to spray his model’s hair black, which Corby would not allow.

“The cool thing about the show is that they literally built an Alerna Haircare Salon on set. It’s really them stepping into the Alterna design team’s world. From that point we take over and they are in our world,” says Corby. “I give a quick consultation to every designer even though that may not be conveyed on the show. It’s a little more organized than comes off on television. There is more than one person dedicated to achieving just one look because the truth is we really only have thirty minutes. And we only have thirty minutes if make-up doesn’t run over.”

Dress made from plastic rulers

Dress made from plastic rulers. Alterna makes a head band to get this look.

One of the biggest surprises to Corby was how strict on time the producers can be. “It looks in editing that they gave them extra time to finish a garment, they really don’t. If it doesn’t get done they still don’t get extra time.”

The most challenging segment was the first episode when producers threw everyone a curve ball and shot the entire first show at Mood Fabric store.

“We had to set up on bolts of fabric, borrowing ladders from the crew to stand up and do tall hair. The theme was Punk so it felt like we were being ‘punked.’ Surprise there is no salon!”

“In the first episode everyone’s tension is really high. No one wants to be the first person to go home. We are worried about our performance as a design team, but also the comments that they make on the catwalk because of the hair. They have been known to make comments like ‘the hair isn’t really working.’”

Designer Christopher Palu with model

Designer Christopher Palu with model



When putting together the Project Runway All Stars Alterna Haircare Team, Corby looked for team members that had runway experience and skills, basically stylists that could handle the stress. Donnie and Pam are Senior Design Members and have been using Alterna at their boutique salon since their hemp line was first hip. Because Alterna is a luxury brand only available in salons it makes the relationship with Project Runway unique since more commercial brands like Tresemme usually scoop up large sponsorship related to Fashion Week.

Alterna Haircare Creative Team at Divinity Salon

Alterna Haircare Creative Team at Divinity Salon

It would appear that keeping their style and mantra ‘alternative’ has paid off for both Alterna along with Pam and Donnie.

The finale of Project Runway All Stars Season 3 was shot in July at the newly refurbished UN.

It appears tonight at 9 pm EST on the Lifetime Channel.


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